Step 1: Materials
The core materials for this project are as follows:
I bought a bunch of Ebony blanks with the pregnancy of our first child. The pregnancy of our second child started while we were living in Samoa. I made several bone necklaces while there, so this is from some of the leftover bone from those projects. The Paua shell was purchase in New Zealand while we visited there. Our third child's necklace was my first attempt at inlay and incoporated Ebony, Bone, and Paua shell. The rose wood came from the first rose my wife and I bought together shortly after we got married. We moved from that house when we moved to Samoa. However, We were able to go back years later and (with permission) dig the rose up since we noticed they hadn't really been cared for. I used a small cross section of one of the main stems that had died. These materials are all to add extra meaning to the necklace.
Additionally, the following materials were used to put it all together:
Ebony Dust (collected from sanding the ebony wood)
Sand Paper (varying grits - 120, 320, 600)
Step 2: Concept Design
I had some interesting impressions when we got pregnant with our 4th child. One was just a strong sense of her Purity. I began googling symbols for purity. The Lotus Blossom was one that came up over and over again. I struggled and worked with a design that could incorporate the materials I wanted to use. I was finally able to come up with this.
After making it, I knew I was crazy as the amount and detail of inlay it would require was a bit over my head. Oh well, that is what love is, right?
Step 3: Transfer Design
Once I had the design set, I made a simpler version and scaled it to the size of my ebony blank. I cut out the design pieces and then traced them onto the wood. This gave me a sense of positioning and sizing for when I carved out the wood for the shapes.
Step 4: Cut Shapes for Inlay
Having cut out the shapes, I now had templates to use for cutting the shape out of the raw material. I used my dremmel for this using a thin cutoff disc. With the bone and the paua shell, a mask is essential. The dust is really not good for you. They both really stink when being cut, and I have read that the paua dust is really bad for the lungs.
Once the shapes were cut, I laid them out on the ebony blank. This gave me a better sense of sizing and I adjust the design slightly. I then traced the small changes onto the wood.
Step 5: Cut Shapes Into Ebony
This is one of the more challenging steps as it does require some patience and accuracy. I started with the two center pieces and worked my way out. I used a pointed tip dremmel bit to get the points of the shapes as sharp as possible.
With each shape I stared carving out the general shape. Then I would try placing the shape into the hole. I would adjust the size and depth until it would fit comfortably. The cut out doesn't have to be perfect as the next step will show. You can have a little bit of wiggle room. However, too much space will end up being a little more obvious when the inlay is complete.
Also, the shapes don't have to be perfectly flush as this will happen as you sand it down.
Step 6: Glue Shapes & Filler
This is a tricky step as well. I learned about this just by searching the internet on how to do inlay. I was surprised at how simple the overall process was to make the inlay look perfectly snug.
Start by putting super glue inside the shape. Then place the cut out shape into the hole. Once it is positioned, pour ebony dust onto the shape and fill all the cracks. Then put super glue over the top of that. Try to push this down into gaps as well. This acts as a super quick hardening wood putty.
Step 7: Sand Down Filler
Once the glue has dried (anywhere between 2 and 5 min) it is ready to be sanded down. I started with a 120 grit sand paper. This is where the shapes become flush with the ebony. Then I used the finer grit sandpapers to get a really clean, smooth surface.
Take your time on this part as you don't want to sand the shapes down so much that they actually lose their shape. This happened on one of the corners of my shapes that was pretty thin to begin with.
Step 8: Cut Pendant Shape & Sand
I'm thankful to have friends with great tools. I was able to quickly use his bandsaw and belt sander for this step.
I drew on the shape of the pendant first. Then I just cut it out. Then I took it over to the belt sander to clean up the cut and make it nice and smooth. I also rounded out the shape a bit to make it more sleek and feminine.
I also drilled out the hole for the necklace.
Then, with the 320 grit and 600 grit sandpaper I gave the whole thing a nice smooth finish.
Step 9: Fill Spiral Groove
I initially wanted to have this be bone. I realize rather quickly that this would be impossible without a laser cutter (which I don't have, but I would totally be open to someone giving me one). I decided to use a filler instead. I tried a couple things, but settled on drywall spackle. Cheap? Yes. Easy and available? Yes. Looks almost exactly like bone once the polyurethane coat is on? Yes.
I actually tried bone dust and super glue first, but it was an epic fail. It looked terrible and I had to carve it out again. I am actually quite pleased with how the drywall spackly ended up looking. That, and it was super easy and quick.
Step 10: Coat of Poly
Make sure the pendant is clean before applying the polyurethane. Then apply the coats. I ended up doing about 4 coats to get a solid finish. Between coats (about 4 hour drying time) I used a 000 grit steel wool to knock off any bumps in the poly.
Step 11: String It Up
I used a nice black cord necklace with clasps to finish off the necklace. It turned out really nice.
Step 12: Put It on Her
The final piece was nice. This is her wearing it while holding our 4th. I love the way the paua shell shines in the light.